It's a fascinating story, with major battles thrown in for good measure, a story that is definitely well worth reading regardless of whether you're not a tech junkie.
So that you can truly understand Blu-ray, you might have to return to the first 80's when CDs or Compact Discs were introduced. CDs were a huge leap forward should you compared it to the present media at that time; due to the fact the CD offered more storage, better sound quality and quickly had become the universal standard for pre-recorded, recordable and rewritable media. CDs had around 650MB of storage capacity which was revolutionary during the time for data storage and retrieval.
However, no technology stands still, especially considering our insatiable requirement for more compact storage and better quality images. Hence, we had the development of the DVD within the 90's which had a 5-10 X surge in capacity within the CD. The DVD allowed for high quality, standard definition video distribution and recording, along with accommodating larger data application. Another key element for this seamless transition, was how the DVD spec used exactly the same factor because the CD which allowed for full backwards compatibility. These important aspects would not lost for the development in the following generation media; this being the Blu-ray Disc.
The beginnings in the Blu-ray started in the mid '90's with the development of HDTV sets. Consumers soon realized there had been no media able to recording or playing back Hi-def
content. There were clearly no mediums which could store HD codecs, aside from JVCs Digital VHS and Sony's HDCAM; but nothing practical much like the CD and DVD media.
However, it turned out known that using lasers with shorter wavelengths you can create optical storage with higher density. Using this knowledge, Shuji Nakamura invented practical blue laser diodes. Its commercial use was delayed by a patent lawsuit, but eventually the Blu-ray disc became available and the next thing from the evolution of storage media began.
The Difference: The key benefits of Blu-ray Discs versus DVDs.
Although blu-ray disc are similar physical size of a DVD or CD, they are designed for storing and reading far more data. The explanation for this is certainly its usage of a blue laser instead of the red laser utilized by DVDs and CDs. The blue laser has a shorter wavelength, a lesser aperture lens and a thinner cover layer in the disc that makes it possible to build a smaller beam spot size capable
of storing and reading a lot more data about the disc.
Of course, no discussion might be complete without mentioning the actual heated battle between the two opposing technologies: Blu-ray vs HD-DVD. Each disc format have major backers, behind Blu-ray stands Sony, Dell, Hitachi, Hewlett-Packard, Panasonic, Pioneer, Philips, Samsung... and backing HD-DVD now we have Toshiba, NEC and some major movie studios Universal Studios, Paramount Pictures, Warner Bros and New Line Cinema.
Even though many believe Blu-ray has won the battle and may probably become the dominant high def technology. (Beta anyone?) The leading argument being space for storage, since Blu-ray offers 25 GB for single-layer and 50 GB for dual-layer; this is in comparison to HD-DVD which gives 15 GB for single-layer and 30 GB for dual-layer.
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